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Set Designer Uses Broadway Experience To Design Times Square Restaurant


Construction workers in Times Square are hustling to finish a restaurant set to open later this summer.

EMERSON MERECA: Cut me a four-by-four of PVC rod.

MARTIN: Bond 45 is designed by someone better known in that neighborhood for his stage sets. David Korins did four musicals now running on Broadway, including a little one you might've heard of called "Hamilton." He's also designed concerts for pop stars like Lady Gaga. For our summer series that takes us behind the scenes, NPR's Neda Ulaby asks Korins what tricks he uses to make eating a theatrical experience.

DAVID KORINS: I don't know that there are any tricks needed. Eating is one of the most theatrical experiences there is.

NEDA ULABY, BYLINE: That's David Korins in his Midtown Manhattan studio. The designer vividly remembers the drama of visiting a steakhouse as a little kid with his family.

KORINS: There were big steel chandeliers that had fake, little candles flickering in them. And it really felt transporting and glamorous.

ULABY: Like going to the theater, eating out can make you feel different - viscerally, emotionally. Designers like Korins take that into account.

KORINS: The effort in putting together a show is the exact same effort as putting together a restaurant, which is that you're casting it. You're creating a design - an environment, lighting, sound, choreography. You're thinking about pace.


LIN-MANUEL MIRANDA: (As Alexander Hamilton, singing) Alexander Hamilton...

ULABY: You're also thinking about how best to frame your stars, whether they're a delicious meal or Tony-winning actors. For "Hamilton," Korins created an understated set, little more than a stack of bricks and a rickety wooden catwalk. But it was filled, he says, with subtle little choices - the color of the bricks, the length of the walls - that help to evoke a story spanning 30 years in countless locations.

KORINS: In the restaurant, we've done a lot of things like that. We've aged it. We've created a story.

MERECA: How do you want them to look like?

ULABY: The new restaurant, under construction, is right across the street from the Richard Rodgers Theatre, "Hamilton's" Broadway home. It'll be clubby, with dark red mahogany walls and low-hanging copper chandeliers. Right now, Korins is consulting with a guy doing the finishing, Emerson Mereca.

MERECA: When you look into the wall with plaster, it might look too new. You want to age it down a little bit?

KORINS: I think we should age it all down, yeah.

MERECA: I usually use some calcimine on it.

ULABY: The story of this restaurant, Bond 45, will be as if it's a landmark, hundreds of years old, even though everything in it is actually brand-new. Like with the set for "Hamilton," Korins wants to leave room for your imagination to fill in the gaps and make up stories about it.

KORINS: There are windows downstairs that have been bricked up that are actual to the building that I've left. People will wonder did I do that. Did that exist?

ULABY: Those people could be Broadway stars decompressing after a show or tourists from Topeka. But Korins says all of them should feel the essence of the story as soon as they walk in the door. That's what he did with his four other shows now on Broadway, including the one playing across the street, with its 51 songs and 25,000-word script.

KORINS: And that's what kind of what I'm hoping will happen here, except instead of 51 songs and 25,000 words, hopefully it will be millions of words and millions of songs that will happen inside this restaurant.


RENEE ELISE GOLDBERRY: (As Angelica Schuyler, singing) I remember that night.

ULABY: Theater and dining out - both, he says, are a kind of cultural sustenance. Neda Ulaby, NPR News.

GOLDBERRY: (As Angelica Schuyler, singing) I remember that night. I just might regret that night for the rest of my days. I remember those soldier boys, tripping over themselves to win our praise. I remember that dream-like candlelight, like a dream that you can't quite place. But Alexander, I'll never forget the first time I saw your face. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Neda Ulaby reports on arts, entertainment, and cultural trends for NPR's Arts Desk.